The new head of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation says his priorities are to provide better services for tenants and improve trust in the agency, which has functioned without a permanent CEO for more than a year.
Gene Jones, currently the head of Detroit's public housing body, will officially begin as president and CEO of the TCHC on June 18. He will replace interim CEO Len Koroneos, who was appointed after a purge of the senior team amid a scandal over misspending.
"I don’t think the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is all as bad as everyone says it is," Jones told CBC's Metro Morning in an interview.
"I want to just raise the bar, because we're going to deliver our services a whole lot better than before."
The main challenges facing residents, Jones said, are similar to those he has encountered in U.S. public housing bodies he has worked with in the past — maintenance, crime, and pests like bed bugs .
Jones said he will be focused on the basics when he takes the helm of the agency — "looking at staffing, how we deliver services, looking at our buildings."
When asked what he thought the biggest challenge facing him was, Jones replied: "Bringing credibility back to the agency."
He wants to ensure "that the residents believe in what we're going to do, the staff believe in the president and the CEO, and the board has a relief that they chose the right direction, the right person to lead that agency."
Part of addressing that challenge, said Jones, is communicating effectively with residents, being transparent and "making promises you can keep."
Good social housing, Jones said, "should be great housing. It should provide a temporary home for those [who] need a way to uplift themselves and be gainfully employed."
"It's not housing of last resort. It should be housing that is a choice. That you live here because you have a choice and you want to move forward."